England have had their hands full for some time now, with back to back series against some of the best cricket teams in the world. They just won an ODI series against #1 ranked (ODIs) Australia, making it their 7th consecutive series win at home. After this series ends, they’ll have a little more than a week to recuperate as South Africa make their way to English soil for 3 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20s. The South African captain Graeme Smith however, seems confident that his team can clinch the Investec Test series win, and has set his sights on dislodging England as the #1 Test team.
England lead the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings for Tests by one point, with South Africa close on their tail. The current home record of the English team would put a lot of pressure on many a captain, but Smith believes that he and his team are confident of clashing with Andrew Strauss-led England and feel that they can get to the #1 spot, one of the reasons being that they haven’t lost a single Test series away from home since 2006.
Smith and his team are already in England and will play Somerset today (Monday) in a warm-up match. A press conference was held, and Smith was quoted saying:
“We hope getting to number one can be a reward for our consistency. We have been touching the (top of the) rankings for a long time now. We had a taste of it for a small while (in 2008). We’ve been top two and top three for a long time now and very close to the pinnacle.
“We are hoping now with everything we’ve done, and the way we’ve prepared, and are going to prepare, that we will be ready for the first Test at The Oval.”
Smith, now recovered from an ankle surgery, had a successful tour of England four years ago as well, and mentioned that as the biggest motivation now.
“We have come here with a degree of quiet confidence. We have performed well away from home for a period of time now. We have that strength within the squad and strength in confidence to know we can perform well away from home.
“Having had a success here in 2008, we are hoping to build on that and taste that again. But England are a quality team and throughout all the years of touring here, it is always difficult to beat England. We have a lot of respect for the conditions here and the England cricket team,” he added.
The respect is clearly shown here, but the South African skipper has immense faith in his bowling attack which includes pacers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and especially Vernon Philander, who has bagged 51 wickets in just 7 Tests. Smith is pretty confident that these three can put a halt to the English line-up.
“Dale and Morne have got proven records. Someone like Vernon has come in and done really well so I think as a unit they perform really well. They know their roles and seem to bowl spells that win games. It is nice to have match-winners in the squad. All players want to perform in these type of series and I’m sure Kevin Pietersen is no different.
“He has proved that he is a world-class player and we will respect him in the way we respect every other English batsman. But hopefully we will be able to find ways to get them out cheaply throughout the series and be able to create enough pressure.
“I believe we have got the bowlers to do that and hopefully in match play we can put that into practice,” he concluded.